The younger flagellum sets the beat for Chlamydomonas reinhardtii

D. Wei*, G. Quaranta, M.E. Aubin-Tam*, D.S.W. Tam*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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Abstract

Eukaryotes swim with coordinated flagellar (ciliary) beating and steer by fine-tuning the coordination. The model organism for studying flagellate motility, Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, employs synchronous, breaststroke-like flagellar beating to swim, and it modulates the beating amplitudes differentially to steer. This strategy hinges on both inherent flagellar asymmetries (e.g. different response to chemical messengers) and such asymmetries being effectively coordinated in the synchronous beating. In C. reinhardtii, the synchrony of beating is known to be supported by a mechanical connection between flagella; however, how flagellar asymmetries persist in the synchrony remains elusive. For example, it has been speculated for decades that one flagellum leads the beating, as its dynamic properties (i.e. frequency, waveform, etc.) appear to be copied by the other one. In this study, we combine experiments, computations, and modeling efforts to elucidate the roles played by each flagellum in synchronous beating. With a non-invasive technique to selectively load each flagellum, we show that the coordinated beating essentially only responds to load exerted on the cis flagellum; and that such asymmetry in response derives from a unilateral coupling between the two flagella. Our results highlight a distinct role for each flagellum in coordination and have implication for biflagellates’ tactic behaviors.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere86102
Number of pages25
JournaleLife
Volume13
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2024

Keywords

  • chlamydomonas reinhardtii
  • flagellar coordination
  • microswimmers
  • physics of living systems
  • synchronization

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